Printech Archive
Re: FDA approved inks?

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Date: Mon Oct 04 1999 - 10:15:12 CDT


Probably one of the most common misconceptions about FDA is that they approve
inks, coatings, and papers for direct food contact. FDA does not approve
products, only those ingredients that compose those products. FDA will only
review and approve specific chemicals for direct food contact. These
chemicals are placed on a GRAS list. GRAS means Generally Recognized As Safe.
In some instances, there are concentration limits placed on these
specific chemicals.

In order for you to obtain a "FDA approved ink" all of its individual
components must be first approved and so the resultant mixture will then also
be approved. One supplier of FDA inks with approved ingredients for direct
food contact is ColorCon NoTox located near Philadelphia (215) 661-2505.

With direct food contact inks you also have to be concerned about the type of
food it will be in contact with and will the food react with the ink. Some
foods are acidic while others are fatty and they can cause problems with the
ink and can contaminate the food. While the ingredients may be safe, many
consumers would not like to see multicolored food!

The best way to avoid these problems and the use of the more expensive inks
is to provide a functional barrier between the food and the ink. These
situations are referred to as indirect or noncontact and there are no
regulations for these inks. Examples of function barriers are polywraps or
the actual package itself. Most printers try to find a way to use a
functional barrier to avoid the problems associated with direct food contact.

The same set of requirements that apply to inks also applies to paper. Your
paper vendor should be able to identify sources of paper for direct food
contact. Due to the increased interest in utilizing recycled paper and
paperboard, the American Forest and Paper Association and the Recycled
Paperboard Technical Association has developed some good manufacturing
practices for recycled paper and paperboard production for use in food
packaging. The guidelines outline the policies and procedures to be followed
to ensure compliance with FDA's regulations. A copy of these guidelines can
be obtained by contacting John Festa at AFPA 202/463-2587 or or

If you give me your address I have a package of material on the subject that
I can send.

Gary Jones
Graphic Arts Technical Foundation

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